Book bag – Philip Kerr and his Bernie Gunther series, tip of the hat to Craig Johnson

If you are an addicted reader, then you have experienced the let down of finishing the final book by an author of a series of books you really love. If the author is still alive, you can hope that more books are coming. If they have passed to the office of the big edior in the sky, then no more are coming.  There are series that I keep on my shelf and reread several ltimes. Rex Stout wrote a long series of detective stories featuring Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin.  W.E.B. Griffin wrote his US Army series stretching from 1945 to past the end of the Viet Nam War with stops in occupied Germany, Greece (1948), Algeria, Korea, Congo, and revealed the struggles between the corporate bureacritized Army and the US Air Force in the development of armed helicopters. He also wrote an excellent series about the US marine Corps that started in China just before World War II.  I can’t say I like anywhere near as well his detective series and his contemporary intelligence covert op novels.  I have reread his Army series, the first four novels at least 8 times.

Rereading a favourite book is like sitting down for a long conversation with an old friend you haven’t seen for awhile.

Other series, Patrick O’Brien’s Napoleonic War naval books.

Adam Hall and his series about his spy Quiller.

The Quiller novels as by Adam Hall (AH is the pen name used by Elleston Trevor, you may know him for The Flight of the Phoenix)

There is a narrative trick that Trevor (Hall) uses in the Quiller stories which I have rarely seen used, but he uses it brilliantly.  He puts Quiller in a situation where he is facing death and there is seemingly no way out.  The chapter ends.  You turn the page and begin the next chapter and find Quiller alive and running and the timeline of the novel has jumped ahead thirty minutes or an hour.  And then after a few pages, Trevor brings us back to explain how the heck the spy got out of the kill zone.  A fresh way of using plot tension and release.  Very clever technique.

Not a series but mostly set in and around World War II, novels by Alan Furst. recommended to me the author Philip Kerr who specializes in thrillers set before during and after World War II.  To make it work you need to let goodreads know some books you have read and liked.  From that data and from other reader’s likes, it suggest authors you might like. no cost to use

Today began reading further in the second Philip Kerr novel from the library, Hitler’s Peace.  Not the same snappy narration as from Bernie Gunther. Of the Gunther series I have read just one, The Quiet Flame.  It runs in two time tracks: Berlin 1932 as Berlin Homicide Detective Bernie Gunther does is best to do his work as the Nazis struggle to win control of the government, and 1950 as Bernie Gunther who is trying to survive in the political/police power plays in Argentina. Sorry to have repeated my oft committed error of starting a thriller series with a continuing main character in mid stream rather than with the first book and following through.  Kerr, went to law school.  Got a masters degree.  Worked as a copywriter for Saatchi and Saatchi.  Started writing full time in 1989.  He was born in 1959. He has written a popular series of children’s books as well.

I am not sure I would want to immerse myself in the horrific details of the Third Reich to write these novels.  But Kerr’s Gunther series is one of two thriller character series that I have been blessed to find this past year. The other is the Walt Longmire books by Craig Johnson.  The draw for me in these books is their settings, the plot and characters, and the protagonist narrator.  Sometimes when I read thrillers I find the protagonist narrator is unsympathetic, uninteresting, or too thinly drawn.  That is absolutely not true about these two.

So go get some of these books, and put your summer feet up and read.

RAM Tank – Canadian Cruiser Tank World War II

Ram Tank

When it was decided to build a cruiser tank type, the plan was to base it on the American M3 tank.  The Ram tank had a cast hull and in some variants carried a 75mm gun.   The odd thing is that these tanks never saw combat, but instead were used for training of tank crews in the UK.  At a certain point the Allies decided to put all their production force into the production of M4 Sherman tanks.  There are hints in several articles about the stupidity of American policy makers who left Allied armoured forces with the inferior M4 Sherman and its 75mm gun to face the superior Panther and Tiger Tanks with main gun up to 88mm.  The mismatch resulted in many unnecessary deaths.  The slowness and stupidity of tank development in World War II is astonishing when it is examined in comparison to the speed, ingenuity and results of aircraft development of the same period.

Ram Tank, both photos taken at CFB Borden Military Museum, Angus, Ontario, Canada

rained out photo jaunt

my camera icon

The rain stopped after overnight steadiness and I headed off along Highway 12 for the Fall Fair at Orillia but soon after I began the monsoon avalanched heavy rain.  So I stopped partway to Orillia and had lunch at Tiffany’s Restaurant in Coldwater, Ontario.

I ended up in conversation with a senior couple and their daughter.  He is 88 years old and was a truck driver for Canadian Ordnance Corps in Northeast Europe.  He described meeting a school buddy in Ghent who was too embarassed to admit he that he was shot in the buttocks during the Battle of the Hochwald Forest (Operation Veritable and Operation Blockbuster).

from the wikipedia article “After the war, General Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, commented this “was some of the fiercest fighting of the whole war” and “a bitter slugging match in which the enemy had to be forced back yard by yard”.”

This gentleman weighed 140 lbs when he went in the Army and weighs that today. It was a great pleasure and privilege to speak with a World War Two veteran.  This gentleman has a razor sharp memory.  We talked about lake levels in the Great Lakes and fierce local weather. He has an avid interest in weather and runs his own home weather station.  He remarked on the extreme low pressure that followed a harsh storm that blew through on Friday, barometric pressure was as low as that experienced with hurricanes.

Tiffany’s Restaurant, Coldwater, Ontario
wood detail of store front in Coldwater, Ontario
old signs on side of store front in Coldwater, Ontario

Keneally’s novel about Operation Rimau

Finished reading an outstanding novel of WWII called The Widow and Her Hero by Thomas Keneally (2007), which deals with the true life commando mission “Rimau” (Malay for tiger), made by Australian Special Forces and British troops against Japanese held Singapore. Great book, tragic mission and it appears over time that the facts behind the loss of the men was a high level command decision to sacrifice them. The story by Keneally looks at men’s heroism and the emotional evolution of the women who survive them. It is the story of a war time marriage, the mission, and the long life of the widow who over time learns more about her husband’s final mission and execution by the Japanese. It’s a great novel based on a tragic truth.

Wikipedia article on Operation Rimau.

Keneally is best known for the Booker Prize-winning Schindler’s Ark. He is one of my favourite authors.

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson

Finished reading this detailed account of the battles of Sicily and Italy. It was a difficult read, not because of Atkinson’s style but because of the content. The incredible waste and suffering of so many soldiers and civilians. I had prior to reading this book only a sketchy idea of the Italian campaign. Growing up in Toronto, my next door neighbour was a Canadian Combat Engineer Major who I believe had been in Italy during the war. I thought of him often while reading this book. Highly recommended.